Quantum Communications and Chinese SSBN Strategy

by Raymond Wang

November 4, 2017

The following is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in The Diplomat.

China has been making significant advances in quantum technology, and it is important to understand the strategic implications of these developments as they enter military use. One area that merits close analysis is how quantum communications technology may influence the sea-based leg of China’s nuclear deterrent, the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) ballistic missile nuclear submarine (SSBN) force. Quantum technology has important implications for SSBN launch pre-delegation and patrol strategy. These implications are not alien to Chinese strategists and shipbuilders, who have already started interacting with top quantum physicists in China.

In short, quantum communication uses photons to transmit information. As such, its underwater performance is affected by water quality. By comparing the relative clarity of the bodies of water surrounding China, certain areas appear to be significantly clearer than others, meaning that signals can penetrate deeper. This will influence ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) patrol strategy if quantum communication technology is deployed with the SSBN force. Furthermore, because of the nature of quantum mechanics, these communications are “unhackable,” which will decrease technical pressures for launch authority pre-delegation, and increase crisis stability.

Continue reading at The Diplomat


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